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Persecuted journalist beaten during interrogation, remains defiant: "they cannot silence me"

(IRFS/IFEX) - The investigation into the 13 March 2008 stabbing of "Azadlig" newspaper employee Agil Khalil has turned against him. Using physical and psychological abuse, the Chief Prosecutor's Department to Investigate Serious Crimes took a statement from Khalil in which, under duress, he effectively slandered himself. Meanwhile, television channels under the control of the government have disseminated suspicious allegations against Khalil, apparently cooked up by the authorities.

In an interview with "Azadlig," Khalil once again emphasized that he seems to be the target of a repulsive smear campaign, and detailed the abuse to which he was subjected when under interrogation.

Excerpts from the "Azadlig" interview follow:

"On 3 April, the prosecutor of Kurdemir called me and told me to go to his office. When I asked the reason, he said it was related to my safety. I believed this and went. There, Ali Guliyev, an investigator for the Department to Investigate Serious Crimes, and a prosecutor named Elman who came with him, met me. At first they twisted my arms and took my telephone. And then they began to use moral and physical pressure against me. . .

"Kurdemir's prosecutor left the room. Ali Guliyev and the prosecutor named Elman threatened me, used psychological pressure, and beat me.

"They demanded that I give a statement in which I claim to know a person named 'Sergei'. They forced from me such a false statement by beating me. After this, they said. 'You must say that either you were stabbed by your work colleagues or that you tried to kill yourself, or else we will say that you had relations with gay men and all the TV channels will broadcast this'. They kept me there until 2:00 a.m. They also called my parents, who were similarly threatened. On 4 April at 9 a.m., Ali Guliyev and Elman brought me to the Department for the Investigation of Serious Crimes in their own vehicle. On the way they pressured me. They said, 'During the joint interrogation you must say you know Sergei.' As soon as we arrived they twisted my arms and took my telephone."

"There I was kept in isolation. They did not give me the opportunity to call my lawyer. They treated me as if I was not a victim, but a criminal. Pressure, psychological torture, threats. In this manner they forced me to say that I know a person named Sergei. After my persistent demands, at 3 p.m. they let my lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, join me. Once the lawyer came, they still did as they pleased. That is to say, they obtained a coerced statement. They forced me to say that I know Sergei through a female acquaintance.

"I can with complete honesty say that all of this is nothing more that ludicrous. I don't know a person named Sergei. . . All of this is nonsense and absurd. This Sergei says 'I have known Agil since 2005,' even though I was in the military at that time. At that time I didn't even have a telephone. I bought a telephone after my military service. Sergei says that when I met him, I told him I was a journalist. But at that time I didn't work at any mass media institution. There are many other contradictions in the things he says. However, the authorities don't see the need to investigate these.

"My parents are also being pressured. Some time ago, the head of the region pressured my parents to 'take your son and go to the Presidential Administration. There, say that your son made a mistake. 'Azadlig' is a mafia. Without knowing, Agil got caught in the net of this mafia. After that, withdraw your complaint.' But my family and I resolutely rejected this. They can use whatever means they want; I am not one to back down. If they arrest me, blackmail me, cut off my head, I will not back down from my position.

" . . . The reason I was stabbed is known. They beat me because I exposed the destruction of olive trees in Zeytun Bag (Olive Garden) in my work. . . I have already addressed an appeal to Chief Prosecutor Zakir Garalov, demanding that the case be sent back to the Baku City Police Department. In addition to this, I demanded that investigative actions be conducted involving the people who beat me, Daghbeyi Allahveridyev and his brother Natig Allahverdiyev, and that they be held responsible. At the same time, I demanded that measure be taken against Ali Guilyev and the prosecutor Elman, who both subjected me to torture.

"In closing, one more time I want to state that the regime used these means, but they cannot silence me. Even if they cut off my head, I will continue to speak."

Updates the Khalil case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92390

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